Holiday Pet Safety: 6 Tips For Pet Parents

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The holidays are coming fast. Are you and your pet prepared? Pet parents love spending the holidays with their animal companions, so it's no wonder you want to include your dog or cat in the festivities. Maybe you bought them their very own ugly sweater for the holidays, or maybe you're planning extravagant gifts. Whatever the case, you should always consider your pet's safety during the holidays. 

No matter which holiday you celebrate, the festive season can be dangerous for your pet; you should pay attention to numerous holiday hazards for pets. Everything from strangers in your home to traveling and holiday decorations can harm your pet if you're not careful, and nothing ruins the holidays like a trip to the emergency vet. Luckily, keeping your pet safe during the holidays is easy, and there are preventative measures you can take to ensure the safety and health of your pet this holiday season.

Cat laying on cat bed pawing at star ornament on tree

6 Ways To Keep Your Pet Safe This Holiday Season

The holidays can be some of the busiest times for emergency vet clinics because pets are more prone to accidents and injuries. Holiday hazards for pets can be costly in more ways than one, so it's important to do everything you can to prevent harm from coming to them. Remember, decorations, plants, and table scraps can be dangerous, but the holidays are also stressful for many pets. We've put together 6 holiday safety tips for pets to help you ensure your furry friend has a happy holiday. 

Secure All Holiday Decorations

One of the most important holiday safety tips is to secure your holiday decorations and prevent your pet from coming into contact with them. For example, your Christmas tree can easily tip over if it's not secured. Not only can wagging tails knock them down, but cats may also try to climb them. 

In addition, any tinsel or stringy decoration you use on the tree can entice your cat to paw and tug at it. In fact, any pet could get tangled in tinsel or even swallow pieces of it, resulting in choking or intestinal blockages. If possible, avoid tinsel to ensure your pet's safety, and decorate your tree with something you can secure firmly to it, like ornaments. 

Of course, ornaments can also become holiday hazards for pets because broken ornaments or those that aren't properly secured to the tree can become choking hazards. If your dog likes round shapes like balls, they may be drawn to ornaments, but they can cause intestinal blockages, and broken ornaments can be even more dangerous because they have jagged edges. 

Holiday decorations like string lights can also threaten your pet’s safety, especially if they like chewing on cords. Remember, bright lights may excite animals, so if you plan to have holiday lights in the home, try to keep them in a place that's inaccessible to your pets. 

Choose Pet-Safe Holiday Plants

Believe it or not, the holidays are filled with plants that are poisonous to pets. The most common holiday plants, mistletoe, ivy, poinsettia, and holly, are toxic to dogs and cats and can cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Some plants can also cause cardiovascular problems, kidney failure, or severe stomach distress. If you want to decorate your home with holiday plants, use fake plants made of plastic. Of course, dogs and cats may also chew on plastic, so you may need to strategically place your fake plants around your home. 

Your Christmas tree can also pose a danger to pets because the water additives used for them, like aspirin and sugar, can be toxic or cause GI issues.1 In addition, since pets like to chew on almost anything, you may want to avoid a Christmas tree altogether since pine needles can get lodged in pets' throats and intestines. 

Potpourri is another potentially dangerous item in your home as a pet parent. Most commonly used to add a gentle fragrance to a room, potpourri is made from dried plant materials and essential oils that can be dangerous to pets. 

If you want live plants in your home during the holidays or throughout the year, there are several pet-safe holiday options, including: 

  • Christmas cactus
  • Bromeliad
  • Rose
  • Prayer plant
  • Polka dot plant
  • and more2

Pet-friendly holiday plants

However, even non-toxic plants pose potential dangers, so you should place them where your pets can't get to them or discourage chewing behavior. 

Keep Candles Out Of Reach

Candles are another type of dangerous holiday decoration that poses a threat to you and your pet. Any candle with an open flame can start a fire if knocked over, so you should keep any lit candles high up and far away from pets. Likewise, keep Hanukkah menorahs somewhere high, such as on a kitchen counter. If your pet has been known to climb on the dining table, avoid putting your menorah or any candles there because it can burn curious pets that get too close. 

In addition, consider pet-safe candles that don't have strong scents or use essential oils since they can be dangerous to pets due to their strong sense of smell. Strong scents can cause short-term respiratory symptoms if your pet doesn't have access to fresh air, so always choose unscented candles or avoid open flames altogether this holiday season. 

Avoid Feeding Table Scraps

Common holiday foods dangerous to pets

Keeping your dog safe during the holiday means not feeding them any table scraps because holiday foods can be dangerous to pets of all kinds. Therefore, if you normally like to share some food on your plate with your dog, avoid doing it during the holidays unless you take the time to prepare their own pet-safe holiday meal. 

Many holiday human foods are unsafe for pets. For example, chicken, ham, and turkey can be dangerous because they're fatty and salty and can be seasoned with garlic, onion powder, and various other unsafe ingredients for pets. In addition, onions, chives, and garlic are toxic to dogs and cats. Unfortunately, these ingredients are used in several holiday foods, like mashed potatoes, stuffing, and gravy. Avoid feeding your pet anything with these ingredients because even small amounts can cause toxicity. 

Your pet should never eat sweets like chocolate, candy, or jam. Chocolate is toxic to dogs, and candy and jams may contain xylitol, an artificial sweetener that's toxic to pets in small amounts. Unfortunately, even healthy holiday desserts can be dangerous for pets. Grapes, raisins, and tomatoes can cause toxicity and GI issues. 

One important thing to remember is to never feed your dog cooked bones. While you know how much your dog loves chewing on bones, bones from ham or roasted poultry aren't safe because they can break and splinter, causing choking hazards and dangerous intestinal blockages. Therefore, you should wrap up any leftovers and remove all food from the table as soon as you're done eating to prevent your pets from getting ahold of them. 

Remember, your pet is smart. Cats and dogs can jump on tables to get a taste of the food you leave behind, so you should have a rule to clean your plate after you're done eating and never let your guests walk away from the table or leave their plates unattended. 

Provide A Safe, Quiet Space Away From Guests

Make sure your pet has a safe and quiet space away from holiday parties to rest and relax

The holidays can be stressful for dogs and cats. Dog anxiety can cause your dog to become afraid of guests or bolt out the door when a guest tries to enter or leave. Loud noises and too many people can cause dog and cat anxiety, even if your pets are typically calm. However, if you know your pet has anxiety, the holidays can exacerbate their symptoms by easily overstimulating them. If you plan to have guests, ensure they know you have pets and how to deal with them. For example, some anxious dogs can become aggressive when approached by humans, so you can tell your guests not to pet your dog unless they show interest first.

In addition, your pet should have their own sanctuary space away from the holiday festivities where they can go to escape the noise and people. You can give them their own room with toys, treats, and their favorite blankets to help them cope with the stress of the holidays. Of course, you should always check on your dog to give them plenty of love and attention to help ease their stress. 

Look After Your Pet During Holiday Travels

If you decide to travel during the holidays, always accommodate your pet. If your pet is traveling with you, they should be microchipped and have a collar with their ID on it. In addition, you should consider whether it's better to drive or fly to your holiday destination. Depending on the size of your pet, they may have to travel as cargo, which could be dangerous. Therefore, driving with them is always best because it allows them to stay with you and get as many potty breaks as they need. 

In some cases, you might not want to bring your pet with you during the holidays, so you can have them boarded or hire a pet sitter to check in on them while you're gone. Of course, finding a pet sitter during the holidays can be difficult, so taking your pet with you is typically the best option. 

How To Include Your Pet In Holiday Celebrations

Your pet is family, so they should be included in the holiday celebrations. Every pet deserves to celebrate the holidays with their beloved pet parents, so here are a few ideas for how to include your pet in the celebrations:

  • Give them presents: When the family opens presents, consider letting your dog or cat open one of their own. You can give them special holiday treats like cranberry or chicken treats to share in the holiday joy. 
  • Hang a stocking: Your pet likely doesn't know what a stocking is, but they're part of the family, so hang a stocking for your pet along with the rest of the family.  
  • Holiday photos: If you like to send holiday cards to your friends and family, your pet will make the perfect addition to any photo. You can even buy the entire family, including your pet, matching outfits for the photoshoot. 
  • Extra playtime: Since the holidays can be stressful, you'll want to give your dog or cat as much affection and attention as possible to ease some of their stress and help tire them out. Regular playtime is crucial and can reduce stress by providing them with mental and physical stimulation. 

Holiday Pet Safety: Frequently Asked Questions

How do you travel with pets during the holidays?

There are several ways to travel with pets during the holidays, and you can even fly with your pets on some airlines. However, if you choose to fly with your dog or cat, you may have to weigh the pros and cons. Most airlines only allow small pets to fly in the cabin, so if your dog is medium or large, they'll have to fly as cargo, and the cargo hold can be dangerous and stressful for them. Drive with your pet whenever possible to reduce their anxiety and ensure you always have eyes on them. 

Are holidays stressful for pets?

The holidays can be stressful for pets, even when you're celebrating in your own home. Even something as simple as adding a Christmas tree to the living room can cause stress in dogs and cats because it's different from what they're used to. The best thing you can do to ease your pet's anxiety is to keep their routine during the holidays. Therefore, even if you have people over, you should continue feeding and walking your dog at the same time every day to prevent additional stress. Your pet should also have a quiet place where they can go to relax. 

How long can you leave your pet at home?

How long you can leave your pet alone at home depends on the type of pet and their temperament and health. For example, dogs should not be left alone for more than 10 hours, and most dogs should be taken outside for their potty breaks at least every 8 hours. However, small dogs will need potty breaks more frequently. Cats are a little different because they don't need to go outside to do their business, so they can be left alone for longer periods. Still, if you plan to be gone from morning until night, you should have someone check in on your pets and give your dog a walk. 

Dog placing a paw on owner outside in the snow

Final Notes

The holiday celebrations should be full of joy and happiness. Unfortunately, a sick or injured pet can turn a happy holiday into a stressful one. No one wants to spend the holidays in the emergency vet clinic wondering if their pets will be okay. Holiday safety for pets is crucial, but luckily, pet parents can take a few precautions during the holidays to protect their pets. Always consider the location of your decorations, including candles, trees, and plants. In addition, keep holiday foods away from pets and ensure your guests don't feed them any table scraps. 

Wondering how to care for your pet this holiday season? Talk to a Dutch vet. Dutch offers online vet services to provide pet parents with the advice and tips they need to ensure a safe, happy holiday for their pets.

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References

  1. "Winter Holiday Pet Safety." American Veterinary Medical Association, https://www.avma.org/resources-tools/pet-owners/petcare/holiday-pet-safety.

  2. "Which Holiday Plants Are Safe for My Cats and Dogs?" University of New Hampshire, 3 Dec. 2018, https://extension.unh.edu/blog/2018/12/which-holiday-plants-are-safe-my-cats-dogs.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who is Dutch?

Dutch is an online veterinary pet telehealth service, created by pet parents and board-certified veterinary specialists. We use a science-backed approach to provide pets relief for their everyday physical and behavioral health issues. Dutch connects you with licensed veterinarians over video chat and messaging to help you get care for your dog or cat quickly wherever you are — without the stress or expense of a vet visit. We also partner with pharmacies who can deliver prescription medication (in applicable states only) and over-the-counter treatments directly to your door. Dutch isn’t a veterinary practice or pharmacy, but a company that helps facilitate these services for pet parents to make veterinary care more accessible to all.

What is a visit with Dutch like?

When booking a video call with a vet, you'll be asked a few questions about your pet’s health issue. Depending on the issue, you may also be asked to fill out a longer questionnaire about their symptoms and share photographs of them so our veterinarians can better understand what’s going on. You’ll then pick an appointment time that works best for you.

During your video call, one of our licensed veterinarians will talk to you about the symptoms your pet is experiencing, ask you questions, review your pet’s medical history if you’ve provided it, and answer any questions you have. The vet will ask to see your pet and their environment. And they may ask you to perform some simple checks on them if needed.

After your video call, the vet will send you a message with a custom treatment plan to help your pet feel better, including a link to buy any recommended prescription or over-the-counter medications. Place your order and we’ll ship it free.

How much will it cost for Dutch to treat my pet?

The Dutch membership starts at $15/mo for unlimited access to the vet. No more long waits for appointments or surprise bills.

In addition to the base membership plan, our veterinarians may also recommend additional medication (Rx and/or OTC) that you will have the option of adding to your plan at an additional cost.